The Daring Life and Dangerous Times of Eve Adams, a book released on May 18, 2021, by Jonathon Ned Katz, focuses on the “radical, Jewish, lesbian immigrant Eve Adams and her long-lost book Lesbian Love.”
Born Chawa Zloczewer, into a Jewish family that resided in Poland, Eve Adams settled in the United States in 1912. Here she “took a new name, befriended anarchists, sold radical publications and ran lesbian-and-gay-friendly tearooms in Chicago and New York.”
Eve’s Hangout, also known as Eve & Ann’s and Eve’s Tea Room, was an after-theater club Eve Adams ran from 1925-1926. It was located at 129 MacDougal Street, Manhattan, and is now a gay-friendly pizzeria called La Lanterna di Vittorio.
Eve, also known as Eva Kotchever, ran her business out of the lower level of 129 MacDougal. Eve’s Hangout offered weekly poetry readings, discussion groups and music performances. As Eve and her Hangout’s popularity rose, so did social activist patrons, like Eve’s anarchist-writer friend, Emma Goldman. Eve hung a sign at the door: “Men are admitted, but not welcome.”
Eve Adams also ran a business named The Gray Cottage with her partner at the time, Swedish painter Ruth Norlander. It was located at 10 E Chestnut St. Chicago, and is now a building devoted to car parking.
In 1925, Eve made the bold risk to write a book of short stories called Lesbian Love. Even before Radclyffe Hall’s The Well of Loneliness (1929) was ruled “obscene” for featuring lesbianism, Eve Adams included “lesbian” in the title of her book.
Eve Adams did not escape an obscenity ruling, either. She was convicted by New York City’s Vice Squad of obscenity for Lesbian Love, after undercover police detective, Margaret Leonard, entered Eve’s Hangout and came face-to-face with the book. The detective also accused Eve of making overt sexual advances against her.
Jonathon Katz outlines how her arrest wasn’t a fluke:
“In a repressive era, long before today’s gay liberation movement, when American women had just gained the right to vote, Adams’s bold activism caught the attention of the young J. Edgar Hoover and the US Bureau of Investigation, leading to her surveillance and arrest. In a case that pitted immigration officials, the New York City police, and a biased informer against her, Adams was convicted of publishing an obscene book and of attempted sex with a policewoman sent to entrap her.”
Due to joining political work of anarchist activists Emma Goldman and Alexander Berkman, and her work traveling as a saleswoman for radical periodicals, Eve was spied on by the Bureau of Investigation, which is known as “the forerunner of the FBI.”
Lesbian Love is featured in Katz’s The Daring Life and Dangerous Times of Eve Adams.
Sent back to Europe, Eve Adams ran Le Boudoir de l’Amour in Montmartre, a bookstore and café in Paris. In Paris, she met artists like Henry Miller, June Miller, and Anaïs Nin. Eve joins a long list of powerful modernist lesbians who have contributed so much to lesbian culture and history. Her memory stands alongside those of Sylvia Beach, Bryher, Natalie Barney, Gertrude Stein, Alice B. Toklas, and Radclyffe Hall.
Eve Adams kicked up her anti-fascist activism in the 1930s. She supported the Second Spanish Republic, against General Francisco Franco’s regime, and often corresponded with Ben Reitman. Ultimately, in 1943, Eve Adams was murdered by Nazis in Auschwitz. She was arrested in Nice with her partner Hella Olstein and the two women were imprisoned in the Drancy internment camp, near Paris. Then the women were deported to Auschwitz and were killed.
Besides Jonathon Ned Katz’s aforementioned bibliography, Eve Adams has been immortalized in numerous ways. Barbara Kahn wrote the play Unreachable Eden, a play about Eve’s life, which was read in 2014 at the Theater for the New City, 19th Annual Lower East Side Festival for the Arts. There is a street in Paris named after Eve, ‘rue Eva Kotchever’. A French public school is named after her. The City of New York and the National Park Service has memorialized her.
As Jonathon Katz began investigating Eve’s life, originally thinking he’d fit it all in an article, he realised that “Eve’s history sounded an all-too-pertinent warning. Just a month earlier, Donald J. Trump, scandal sheet playboy, reality show star, real estate mogul, woman group, and con man, had lost to his opponent by 2.87 million votes and yet had been elected US president. His racist, anti-immigrant rhetoric spoke to White voters angered by the failure of their American dreams, a loss blamed not on an unjust system but on Black and Brown people and immigrants.”
The way in which Eve Adams was hunted and, eventually, murdered for being both Jewish and a threat to authoritarianism, is not a world away. We still live in this world. As dissent is silenced — in both wings — and violence is always around the corner, Eve Adams’ story is a warning as relevant today as it ever has been.